Went to Naples and a visit to the Stadio San Paolo had to happen so I could pay my respects to Diego Maradona and Napoli.
While I cheer for Juventus in the Italian Serie A, I've had this fascination for Napoli both the city and the club. The city I first read about during my world and military history lessons. Napoli was bombed some 200 times by the Allies during World War II as its ports were used by the Germans for their U-Boats and the oil facilities nearby. And the second reason is one Diego Armando Maradona.
Up to the arrival of Maradona in Napoli, Serie A football was dominated by teams from the north. No southern team ever won the Scudetto. As for his impact, a Napoli newspaper wrote of the arrival of the Argentinean from FC Barcelona, "the lack of a mayor, housing, sanitation, buses, schools, employment, and sanitation makes it bearable now that Maradona has arrived." Imagine that? And some 70,000 showed up during his presentation at the Stadio San Paolo.
The "saviour" did arrive and he led I ciucciarelli to the Serie A championship of 1986-87 and 1989-90. They also finished second in the league in 1987-88 and 1988-89. He also led them to the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989, and the Italian Super Cup in 1990. His success with the team has catapulted Maradona to mythic and quasi-religious status. "Santo Diego" as one of several Napoletanos I spoke with at the Yacht Club.
"Maradona in my heart and in my head and in my mind," enthused another while pointing to his heart several times. And every football store I saw had a scarf, jersey, or a t-shirt dedicated to Maradona.
Some restaurants still have his pictures of jerseys of Gonzalo Higuain and Vincenzo Guardiglio hanging on the wall to name a few.
I didn't stay long in Napoli but I promise to return. And who knows? Maybe I can catch a game as well.